Saturday, November 30, 2013

Being Thrice Potent

Freemasonry is a fraternity fraught with impressive titles. It's not unusual to find yourself in conversation with a Worshipful, Right Worshipful, Most Excellent High, or Sovereign something or other from time to time. Don't get me wrong - the titular roles are demanding and those filling the positions are often well-deserving of holding their particular offices along with the lofty monikers. This year I find myself presiding over the Lodge of Perfection in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite with the rather impressive title of Thrice Potent Master. But what does that really mean - being thrice potent?

Let’s begin by examining something seen every day within the workings of a typical Lodge. In most progressive lines, the officers advance from one rank to the next, becoming incrementally proficient over an extended period. In this manner, a Brother can spend his days quietly, marking the passing time on the calendar and learning that which is necessary to carry him to the next higher officer's position. What's wrong with this? Well, nothing, I suppose, if you're satisfied with being the status quo and letting minimum standards dictate your level of performance. But what is our real purpose in doing anything? I've never heard of anyone striving for mediocrity. Where is the potency in that? I’m reminded of a passage from the Ancient Charge at Raising: “By the exercise of these rights and privileges [taking part as an active member of a Masonic Lodge], you may improve your rational and intellectual powers, qualify yourself to become a useful member of society, and vie with skillful Brethren in an endeavor to excel in everything that is good and great.” By continuing to study and play an active role in the lives of others, you increase your own potency. This isn’t just applicable to Masonry, either. It is important in your work place, your friendships, and most especially in your family. By taking part in an important conversation, or offering assistance when able, we re-establish some of the basic tenets of the Fraternity as well as expand on them by showing service to humanity, one of the core values taught in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite. What we should be doing, and part of being potent in the first place, is challenging ourselves to be more than we already are - pushing the envelope of our knowledge and understanding, while growing in our abilities to think for ourselves and reason with others. Potency is having both the confidence in yourself and the skill to function at a higher level than simply that of what is expected. It is showing a command and understanding of the nuances of the ritual, the rich history of the Fraternity, and having the talent to apply the lessons taught within the Lodge in your own daily life at home and at work.

But where do we go from here? So you can take care of yourself - good for you. This level of potency should enable you to make an impression on those around you. But how are you at taking what you know and making it accessible to others? It's often been said that if you really want to test your own proficiency at anything, then teach what you know to someone else. Make no mistake - it's much easier said than done. For my part, I began by teaching other officers in Lodge the things that I knew. But this is like sharing with family. There's a familiarity and comfort level already built into your audience. When I moved to teaching in the School of Instruction, I found that I needed to start over again. Suddenly, I discovered that what I thought I knew wasn't always correct, and that I also needed to learn how to teach others. I needed to quickly adapt and work with people of different personalities and backgrounds, and to be respectful and patient in how I communicated with them. A much deeper sense of responsibility emerged when I was able to pass on what I’d learned to someone else. Being proficient took on a whole new meaning. This is what I like to think of as being "twice potent.” 

So what about the next level? If having confidence and the ability to govern yourself is potency, and being able to share that knowledge in an efficient and effectual manner with others is being twice potent, then what's left? What exactly do you have to do to become thrice potent? I've thought about this quite a bit, and I think I've finally come up with the answer - nothing at all. 

You see, the truth is none of us can prepare or even learn to be thrice potent. I believe that being thrice potent is an honor that extends from our successors. This may come in the form of seeing those whom we have mentored or counseled excel in their own avocations and endeavors. It may be in a random act of kindness paid forward to another person, or a lesson we once taught conveyed to someone else. These lasting impressions are the final level to potency. A character in a movie once observed that “the man who honors his teacher honors himself,” (The Forbidden Kingdom, 2008). When you recognize the influences of your mentors, friends, and family, then you empower them with a potency that they cannot achieve alone. The key is that the secret isn’t in the title you hold or the number of years you've served, but in the trust someone else reposes in you. Be conscious of that trust. Be mindful of your responsibility to your Brother, your friend, your co-worker, and your family. Your words, no matter how small, carry weight, and in this very simple regard, we all have the opportunity to leave a deep and lasting impression, and strive one day to be thought of as thrice potent.